Pepi Lignana Fattoria Il Casalone – trials and triumphs in southern Tuscany 

Pepi Lignana’s father sold his Portofino property and bought land near Orbetello in what has become the wine estate Il Casalone way back in 1962. This apparently downmarket move – at least in terms of fashionable addresses – is now paying off.  13 hectares have been planted at 6,000 plants per hectare with a quality product in mind.  The main production is Vermentino, a small amount of Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.  The estate is very beautiful and has a splendid roof garden of extremely drought resistant plants on the roof of the winery which is below ground. This has real advantages in terms of insulation and of course aesthetics. 

The owner of this small winery has an interesting insight into the realities of selling wine from a winery with potential for 10,000 bottles a year.  He is a member of and uses the Maremma Toscana DOC denomination for some of his wines. However, he quickly discovered that selling wine in Italy was fraught with difficulties – potential buyers wanted credit and then in the end did not necessarily pay.  The export market has proved more rewarding with the wines being sold across Europe apart from France. Sadly he lost his distribution in the USA, so it has been something of a roller coaster ride.  Does the new DOC help?  At the moment not much – buyers are only interested in two things: how much they like the wine and the price.  A salutary tale indeed but the only option is to make better wine and to work hard at selling it. 

The wines

Leopoldino, Vermentino, IGT Toscana, 2016, 13% – this wine is in fact 88% Vermentino and 12% Viognier.  It could of course be Maremma Toscana DOC but the estate does not see an advantage here as we have just discussed.  But there is no problem with wine quality. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed for some finesse to which can be added melon and apricot fruit, a saline touch, moderate length. All in all a delicious glass with the Viognier adding a touch of richness to the crisper Vermentino. 

Pitorsino, IGT Toscana, 2015, 14% – 100% Viognier fermented and aged in new French barriques for a full-bodied wine, reminiscent of peaches and cream with fine integration of oak and fruit. Moderate acidity only (the pitfall for Viognier) suggests that this is probably a wine to drink young and fresh – and why not? 

Poggi Colombi, Maremma Toscana DOC, 2014 14% – basically Cabernet Sauvignon with a good 15% slug of Petit Verdot, aged in stainless steel and second use barriques.  Powerful blackcurrant and ripe black plum fruit make this immediately accessible and easy to appreciate. But under all that fruit there are fine, ripe tannins to hold it all together.  I can see immediately why a high-end wine merchant like Jeroboams would be happy to sell this wine for just under £11 a bottle. 

Il Cucchetto, Maremma Toscana DOC, 2014, 14% – the same blend as the previous wine but this is a selection of the best fruit and aged for 18 months in new barriques.  Dense, much more savoury in expression and a firm if ripe tannic structure.  The key to both these wines is the use of a rotofermenter which gives rapid and soft extraction(just 2-3 days on the skins) for a lush, new world feel.

Despite the struggles of the market, this is an attractive range of well-made wines with an excellent price to quality ratio. Each wine has a very clear rationale within the range.  As such they are very typical of the best of the Tuscan Maremma.    

With thanks to both the estate itself and to Maremma Toscana DOC for its support for this trip.  

June 2017

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